Video of UAE school bully ‘attacking’ classmate sparks outrage

A recent survey revealed that nearly a third of students in the UAE have suffered daily bullying. (File/Shutterstock)
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Updated 13 February 2020

Video of UAE school bully ‘attacking’ classmate sparks outrage

  • Girl can be heard threatening classmate while pulling her hair and swearing
  • Research revealed in 2019 one third of UAE students suffered daily bullying

DUBAI: The GEMS Education company, which recently announced a multimillion-dollar expansion into Saudi Arabia, has confirmed that a viral video that appears to show a bullying incident was filmed in one of its schools and that “appropriate action has been taken.”

The video has caused widespread upset and prompted social media influencers to condemn what many describe as disturbing images.

In the video that was widely shared on Twitter, a female student can be seen tugging on another girl’s hair before threatening her and dragging her around by her sweater.

It lasts nearly one minute and shows the girl forcibly pulling her victim’s hair. The victim then appears to cry before trying to walk away.

The other girl grabs her arm, telling the girl that she wants to talk to her.

As her victim sobs, the attacker tells her not to tell anyone about what has happened, adding “I will get really mad.”

It has not been revealed what provoked the attack.

In a statement a GEMS Education spokesman said: “We are aware of an earlier incident at one of our schools and can confirm that appropriate action has already been taken in accordance with our safeguarding policy. The school acted promptly to investigate and resolve the issue, and we will continue to prioritize the safety, security and well-being of all our students.”

Detailing actions the company is taking to combat bullying, a spokesperson added: “GEMS Education takes a zero-tolerance stance when it comes to all forms of bullying. The safety, security and well-being of each and every one of our students is an uncompromisable priority across all our schools.

“This is why we have a dedicated central Safeguarding Team, Safeguarding Leads and pastoral teams in every school, training for staff, as well as policies and procedures for addressing and resolving cases judiciously and effectively.”

School takes ‘necessary steps’

According to the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), which governs Dubai’s schools, the latest incident took place about a month ago — but the video went viral earlier this week after it was posted on Twitter on Sunday.

“The safety and well-being of all students at Dubai’s private schools is a top priority for us. Following an investigation into the incident, we can confirm the school has already taken necessary steps to resolve the matter,” a KHDA spokesman said.

“We want to reassure the community that our schools, educators and parents are committed to continue providing a safe, caring and positive learning environment to all students in Dubai.”

The video has sparked widespread outrage, with many calling for more action.

Parents ‘need to know their children’

Social influencer Karen Wazen, who has 2.4 million followers on her Instagram account, discussed the video and her concerns about bullying in a recent post.

“It was really disturbing to watch,” the concerned mother-of-three tells viewers. “But I think more importantly it was disturbing to actually accept the fact that this happens. This happens closer to home than you can imagine. This could happen to your children. Your children could also be the bullies.”

She said bullying was an important issue that needed to be addressed, and acknowledged that her own children could be exposed to bullying.

Wazen said it was important for children to feel they could be open with their parents.

Parents had a responsibility to know who their children mixed with, she said. Her post has received more than 102,400 likes.

 

One-third of UAE students suffer daily bullying

A recent survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development revealed that nearly a third of UAE students are bullied on a daily basis, while 31 percent are bullied a few times a month.

In July, 2019, the UAE Ministry of Education held a week of events aimed at combating bullying in the country.

In October, 2018 Saudi Arabia announced an $800 million, 10-year plan to build schools across the Kingdom in partnership with the UAE-based education company GEMS.

And in August, 2019, it was announced that Ma’arif Education and Training Company had been acquired by a joint venture involving GEMS Education KSA.

Ma’arif private schools was established in 1971 in Saudi Arabia and has more than 13 campuses across the Kingdom, with more than 20,000 students.


Alexandra Najjar: The face of Beirut’s man-made tragedy 

Updated 28 min 56 sec ago

Alexandra Najjar: The face of Beirut’s man-made tragedy 

  • Death of three-year-old from injuries caused by August 4 explosions has brought grieving nation together
  • Outpouring of online tributes to Alexandra testified to the despair and anguish of Lebanese across the world

LONDON: In an ideal world, Alexandra Najjar should have been able to enjoy the rest of a pleasant Mediterranean summer with her family. Once the coronavirus outbreak in Lebanon had been tamed, she should have been able to experience her first day of school.

She would have made many new friends and begun to absorb all the knowledge that a three-year-old is capable of when they first enter kindergarten.

And as the days turned into weeks, which turned into months, which turned into years, Alexandra’s parents would have watched her grow into a young girl, enjoy life, dream big and perhaps achieve greatness in some field.

Alas, in the harsh real world of a crisis-wracked Lebanon, the dreams of Alexandra’s parents will remain just that.

Some 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate haphazardly stored in a warehouse at the Port of Beirut exploded as Alexandra was playing with a friend on the evening of August 4, leaving her severely injured.

Photos and videos of Alexandra were shared widely on social media and tributes poured in online. (Reuters )

Shockwaves from that blast devastated Beirut, its streets blanketed in rubble and shards of glass with many of its residents caked in grey dust and crimson-red blood.

Three days later, after being in a critical condition in a hospital and suffering internal bleeding in her brain, Alexandra succumbed to her wounds.

“You killed us in our own home, in a place where I thought I could leave my family, protect my family . . . where if crimes are happening and we don’t have anything in this country, then at least we have our home where we can be safe,” said Paul Najjar, Alexandra’s grief-stricken father, in a TV interview on Saturday evening, assailing Lebanon’s leaders.

“What you did is a crime at the cost of our family that is so very united and this for me, at the most, is a crime at the cost of love because if there’s anything I should believe in, it’s this  — which was the foundation of our family, it still is and will continue to be so.”

 

As the pain of the Najjar family’s loss sank in, photos and videos of Alexandra — or “Alixou,” the name by which parents called her — began to be shared widely via social media platforms and WhatsApp groups, both in Lebanon and outside it.

Tributes poured in online, testifying to the despair and anguish Lebanese across the world felt in the aftermath of the explosions. Alexandra’s untimely death had put a human face on Beirut’s horrible tragedy.

In one of the pictures, Alexandra is seen sitting atop her father’s shoulders as he took part in a march during last year’s October 17 “revolution,” demanding an end to Lebanon’s twin bane of corruption and sectarianism.

The protesters were calling for a better world for all Lebanese — and a brighter future for Alexandra.

The captions accompanying the photos point to the impact of the Najjar family’s tragedy on the Lebanese people and diaspora.

Photos and videos of Alexandra were shared widely on social media and tributes poured in online. (Reuters)

“This is a photo of Alexandra protesting for a better Lebanon to remove the corrupt government and no one listened and now she’s in heaven,” former Miss USA Rima Fakih wrote below a post on Instagram.

Another caption says: “Alexandra, you are in each of our hearts and prayers today and always. Your death will not be in vain . . . we will make sure of it!”

Alexandra was one of the youngest victims of the Beirut explosions, whose human cost so far includes 150 deaths, nearly 6,000 injured and another 300,000 homeless.

After citizens and residents independently organized and cleaned up the streets and homes of the areas most affected by the blast’s impact, shock turned to anger.

“My message to the Lebanese is a message of unity,” Paul Najjar said in the interview. “They killed us — they didn’t kill Christians or Muslims or politically-affiliated or not politically-affiliated. There is none of this anymore — a message to all the people who are still following these people.

“Please, enough. We need to stand together. We need to stand united so that we can make the change, so we can revolt for the sake of Alexandra and every child and every family that wants to live in this country like we had hope for.”

Photos and videos of Alexandra were shared widely on social media and tributes poured in online. (Reuters)

Paul Najjar said he and his wife returned to Lebanon and set up a company in an effort to help the country.

“We had hope that we would help the country. We also hoped that Alixou would grow up in Lebanon,” he said.

On Saturday, thousands of Lebanese made their way to Beirut’s Martyrs’ Square demanding accountability for the explosions, and the resignation of all government officials. Many of them carried nooses, which they used for symbolic hangings of Lebanon’s principal political actors, including Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

The government responded by deploying riot police and the army, who used rubber bullets and tear gas to subdue similar protests in front of the parliament in Riad Al-Solh Square and the nearby Beirut Souks.

Lebanese Red Cross and the Islamic Emergency and Relief Corps figures showed that the clashes left 728 more Lebanese injured, of whom 153 were taken to hospital and 575 treated on site.

“For your information, rubber bullets could kill and cause permanent damage. If necessary, it should be aimed at legs only. Yesterday, and in one hospital, there were seven open surgical eyes and a ruptured abdominal spleen,” Mohammad Jawad Khalifeh, a former Minister of Health, said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, little light has been shed by the government on why such a huge quantity of a highly combustible chemical was stored next to the Beirut Port Silos building after being confiscated from a Russian-leased ship six years ago.

“The incident might be a result of negligence or external intervention through a missile or a bomb,” President Michel Aoun said on Friday.

Whatever the truth, UNICEF has warned that almost 80,000 of those displaced by the “incident” are children whose families are in desperate need of support. 

One children’s hospital in the Karantina area, which had a specialized unit treating critical newborns, was destroyed.

Across Beirut, at least 12 primary health care facilities, maternal, immunization and newborn centers have been damaged, disrupting services for nearly 120,000 people.

Against this grim backdrop, Paul Najjar and his wife are hoping that Alexandra’s death will not be in vain but will have a positive impact when the nation rebuilds itself.

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Twitter: @Tarek_AliAhmad